Lawyers for U.S. consumers asked a federal judge in Miami today to speed up a class action lawsuit against Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corp. and four automakers, saying that public safety was at stake over defective airbags.
At a hearing in U.S. District Court in Miami, Peter Prieto, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said he was troubled by the stories of drivers who were injured or killed by shrapnel after their airbag systems exploded.
“It’s a public safety issue, and the damage it’s caused to drivers is amazing,” Prieto said in court. He said he represents 18 plaintiffs from 10 states.
U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King said he would hold a hearing on Dec. 8 before he rules on the plaintiffs’ request that they have immediate access to internal documents from Takata and the automakers.
The defective airbags have been tied to at least four deaths, as well as serious injuries. They have triggered the recall of more than 10 million vehicles in the United States since 2008 by 10 different manufacturers. The Miami class action is one of at least two that lawyers have filed about the airbags. It names as defendants Takata, Honda Motor Co., BMW, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
Thomas Scott, a Miami lawyer who represented Honda at the hearing, said that some of the companies had not been served with the suit. No lawyer for Takata attended, and afterward a spokesman declined to comment.
A second class action was filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The two cases and any related suit are likely to be consolidated before one judge.
U.S. safety regulators are investigating whether Takata airbag inflators made from 2000 to 2007 were improperly sealed or subject to other defects. The regulators have said they do not expect Takata to be able to fully supply replacement parts for the millions of defective airbags until January or later, and they have urged Takata and automakers to seek parts from others.